Global Warming, Tsunamis, and Michael Crichton’s Big Blunder

jurassicdork.gifCrichton makes what is arguably the most egregious scientific mistake ever made in the central plot point of a techno-thriller. The flak I received from Deniers over a recent postand new research — inspired me to remind everyone that the best-selling author who has become a hero to Deniers — even bringing his trash talk against U.S. climate scientists to a Senate hearingdoesn’t seem to know the first thing about global warming impacts.

I am not talking about the incessant misrepresentation of the science of global warming throughout his mistake-riddled book, State of Fear (see here and here). No, I am talking about the central plot point in the book’s climax.

One of Crichton’s main goals in the book is to undermine the case that global warming causes abrupt climate change and extreme weather events. In his story, a mainstream environmental group is plotting to create extreme weather events that will cause the deaths of thousands of people timed to coincide with a conference on abrupt climate change in order to trick the public into accepting global warming as truth. In a bizarre coincidence, the book’s climax has the evil environmentalists carefully plan a seismic tsunami-just weeks before an actual tsunami devastated Southeast Asia.

But the truth is stronger than fiction. Seismic tsunamis are caused by earth tremors. They are not caused by global warming! Any climate scientist knows that. This is a stunning blunder by Crichton, calling into question his claim to have any understanding of global warming.

I don’t know what would be worse — if Crichton knew he was making such a mistake but couldn’t be troubled to avoid it or if he didn’t know he was making a mistake.

Before I get a litany of comments saying this book was just meant to be a work of fiction, let’s look at the press release Crichton himself issued in December 2004 (since removed from his website, but the second sentence can be Googled):

STATE OF FEAR raises critical questions about the facts we believe in, without question, on the strength of esteemed experts and the media. Although the story is fiction, Michael Crichton writes from a firm foundation of actual research challenging common assumptions about global warming.

Now what makes this blunder especially timely is a new study that finds that if, as some like NASA’s James Hansen fear, we see significant sea level rise in the future, the extra weight of that water could lead to “volcanic activity, earthquakes, giant submarine landslides and tsunamis.” You can read about the theory here.

The truth is indeed stranger than fiction.


9 Responses to Global Warming, Tsunamis, and Michael Crichton’s Big Blunder

  1. hippie with a pistol says:

    Bill McGuire? Researced-based or Opinion? How about providing a peer-reviewed article with references from McGuire.

  2. Steven Mosher says:

    At least he didn’t make a Y2K blunder.

    You have to Hand it to Hansen.

    When are you going to do a post on NASA’s latest screw up with the US land surface record?

  3. John says:

    Dumbass, the tsunami in the book wasn’t caused by global warming.

  4. Simon says:

    I haven’t read the book – never will – but there is a growing theory that global warming can, in fact, cause increased seismic activity.

    One group studied the correlation between seismic activity and climate in the mediterranean over the past 2000 years and found it to be marked and significant.

    The theory is that as the polar ice melts, water flows to the equator – a fact borne out by the differential sea level changes at the poles and tropics. This shift in weight changes the pressures on the earth’s crust enough to move and weaken the joins.

    If you graph the total energy in earthquakes each year, I predict you’ll see a distinct and steady rise very similar to that in the temperature graph.

  5. Simon says:

    correction – it should be a first level differential – reflecting the rate of change.

  6. Steve says:

    You have selected a complete non-point.

    Nothing in the book indicates that tsunamis have anything to do with global warming. The people causing the tsunami only want to scare people, and know that most people have no idea about tsunami or climate change, and can be led to believe anything.

    This has essentially been shown true in real life, where all manner of incidents have been blamed on global warming.

  7. Joe says:

    Sorry. Crichton blew it.

  8. Paul M says:

    It’s not that Crichton believes this, but that the GW alarmists have blamed every conceivable natural phenomenon, incuding the 2004 tsunami in Asia, on global warming, and this book is about unfounded climate fears.

    Roy W. Spencer’s latest book, “Climate Confusion,” mentions that “a few experts and politicians blamed the tsunami on global warming.” (page 17). Some also blamed it on God, of course. The point is that GW believers are inclined to blame every weather and geological event on warming, with little respect for scientific facts.

    By the way, it’s not warming….

  9. Orin says:

    Hang on… it does seem that your last paragraph validates Crichton’s plot. In the novel’s world, presuming the tsunami *had* been successful, this water-weight hypothesis (now further corroborated by a study) would be used to cause public alarm. This would appear not to be a blunder at all. Could you explain the discrepancy?